What I learned from my grandpa

My grandfather, an 83 year-old man, is the most knowledgeable person in my family with the least formal education. As a matter of fact, he was illiterate at the age when most of people in my generation have already graduated with a college degree.

He taught himself everything by reading encyclopedia, and because of his enthusiasm, education became the top priority in his family where his 7 kids were raised. And even to this day, they are still re-inventing themselves constantly, taking on leadership roles in finance, banking, real estate, hospitality management…thanks to grandpa!

When I was a kid, I thought of my grandpa as an exceptionally driven and intelligent man who happens to be very fond of reading, studying, and learning new things in general. But looking back now, I realize that’s not all that is. My grandpa’s learning path represents the ultimate goal and purpose of education, which is, not to give students fish (knowledge & diploma), but the skills of fishing and the amount of interest that makes fishing a lifetime commitment.

A successful educator to a student is like a rocket that carries a satellite into outer space on an desired orbit where its motion becomes autonomous.

At the thought of how knowledge was imparted more than half century ago, I was amazed at how little has changed today despite of improvement of technology that documents and spreads knowledge. What drives learning is not dependent on the tool a person uses, but who is using it. The power of a tool is not determined by how advanced the tool is, but how intelligently the tool is being used.

At this thought, I find absolutely no advantage comparing to my grandpa half century ago, being a new soul in a high-tech world, where tools are more ‘intelligent’, knowledge is more ‘accessible’, and learning more ‘convenient’. Because no matter how many degrees I hold, how many languages I speak, how many computer languages I program, I can still be a total illiterate in the era of information if I do not have the same level of enthusiasm my grandpa has for knowledge. Such enthusiasm, drive, and diligence my grandpa has should not be just an exception like what I used to believe, rather, it ought to be the standard of all knowledge workers at all time.

I’d like to end with what Steve Jobs has wished for the graduates from Stanford, which is also what coincides with the wisdom I’ve learned from my grandpa — Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Ph.D. in Economics with interests in Life Science, Behavioral Science, Health Economics Evaluation and Health Technology Assessment. Executive MBA student at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business in Hong Kong, graduating in 2020.

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